White Night



Pusan International Film Festival

BUSAN, South Korea -- Jannik Johansen's "White Night," like the Danish director's psychological thriller "Murk," is a character study, here of a successful real estate agent on a downward spiral after an accidental homicide. In the same way Johansen incrementally increased the tension in his earlier pseudo-mystery, he slowly tracks the protagonist's rocky path to healing.

International film festival play is a surety for "White Night," and moderate success at home in Denmark is likely. The film also could find audiences in urban markets for distributors willing to take the chance on this small gem.

After closing another big land sale, Ulrik (Lars Brygmann) goes out with some colleagues for drinks, where they happen upon a surly barfly who starts a fight. Some pushing and shoving result in a devastating fall that kills the man. Ulrik is arrested and held overnight but released when the cause of death is determined accidental. Ulrik tries to return to his old life with his glamorous wife, Camilla (Anne Sophie Byder), but can't get past an intensifying sense of guilt.

To this end, Ulrik buys a new home for the dead man's impoverished widow, Karina (Rikke Louise Andersson), and her two children. Uncomfortable as she is with Ulrik's motives, Karina accepts his generosity at the urging of her sister. Nonetheless, Ulrik slowly alienates those around him, beginning with Camilla, moving on to his shallow friends and co-workers and his lawyer brother, Bertel (Nicolas Bro). Hovering in the background and compounding Ulrik's anguish is the strained relationship with his father, Jacob (Morten Grunwald).

Brygmann, last seen in "Clash of Egos," brings the appropriate combination of hangdog sadness and simmering anger to Ulrik, allowing his shifting emotions to come to the fore. Bro, who starred as the widower in "Mork," is excellent in his few scenes as the brother caught between estranged family members. Watching him barely flinch when Ulrik hurls abuse at him is a lesson in emotional control.

Ulrik's life is almost impressionistically shot in icy blues (by Jens Maasbol) whenever he confronts his guilt, and in bright color for the world that lies outside his dilemma. If there's a fault in the film, written by its director and veteran filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen, it's the brief running time. At a compact 96 minutes, Ulrik's crushing burden and subsequent change of heart come on rather swiftly with pat logic and expository dialogue that can come across as lecturing, such as Ulrik's realization about the lack of ethics in his work. It's a point bluntly stated as opposed to intuited in this otherwise cerebral film.

A Nimbus Film, Fine & Mellow production
Director: Jannik Johansen
Screenwriters: Anders Thomas Jensen, Jannik Johansen
Producer: Brigitte Skov, Morten Kaufmann
Director of photography: Jens Maasbøl
Production designer: Charlotte Bech
Music: Jens Unmack, Nikolaj Norlund
Editor: Per K. Kirkegaard
Ulrik: Lars Brygmann
Karina: Rikke Louise Andersson
Bertel: Nicolas Bro
Jacob: Morten Grunwald
Camilla: Anne Sophie Byder

Running time -- 96 minutes
No MPAA rating